The Things of Auschwitz

Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH)


Like any other factory, the death factory of Auschwitz consumed primary materials and produced secondary products. Unique to Auschwitz, though, is that the primary material was human life; and not just the life of the breathing human body, but also the material possessions associated with that life. The detritus of this most efficient genocide—including clothing, jewelry, food, and corpses—was appropriated and put to new uses by the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the prisoners. Others have recognized the various postwar material cultural outcomes of the camp: the writing, the film, the theater, the art, the tourism. This chapter, however, demonstrates that the material culture of Auschwitz is not a phenomenon exclusive to the postwar era. Inside the camp during the war, despite the landscape of death and deprivation, intimate interaction between humans and material culture continued; and, as we move into a new era of study, understanding that interaction will play an important role in our continued probing of wartime Auschwitz.


Material Culture Concentration Camp Black Market Primary Material Material Possession 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This chapter is a revised version of an article that originally appeared in Papers from the Institute of Archaeology (Myers 2007). Thanks are due to the editors of that journal. For commenting on drafts, many thanks are due to Gabriel Moshenska, Christopher Friedrichs, David Robinson, Paul Myers, Kathy LaVergne, and two anonymous referees. Responsibility for the interpretation presented is the author’s alone.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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